Stories & News


Achieving the Dream leads a growing network of more than 220 community colleges. Each one has stories of transformation that helped change students’ lives. Learn more about how Achieving the Dream has spurred Network colleges to develop institutional capacity that leads to greater student success.


Video Story: Pierce College, Advancing Student Success through Achieving the Dream’s Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool

In just one year the Pierce College (WA) community has made great strides in advancing student success by regularly analyzing student data and using success metrics.


When Pierce College committed to set a  path of continuous improvement, the college’s data revealed significant gaps in equity and achievement. To address these gaps and increase student success outcomes, the college turned to Achieving the Dream for guidance. Pierce College implemented ATD’s Institutional Capacity Framework, and administered the Institutional Capacity Assessment Tool (ICAT), an online self-assessment that helps colleges determine their current level of capacity in seven core areas. A broad group of stakeholders, including representatives from the college’s board of trustees, president’s cabinet, administrators, full-time and adjunct faculty, staff, and student success teams participated in the assessment process. The World Cafe format enabled a structured conversation that encouraged a wide-ranging discussion of the institution’s strengths, opportunities for improvement, and ideas for taking action. The video showcases the value of the ICAT and the in which ways ATD's Institutional Capacity Framework affect every aspect of the student experience, from connection to completion.

“We needed help. We turned to Achieving the Dream and it has been the best decision we made. Achieving the Dream gave us direction, and it really helped take us to a place where we are very data-rich now.”

- Michele Johnson, Chancellor


Pierce College leverages ATD’s Institutional Capacity Framework as a way to organize performance in seven critical areas in order to strengthen an institution-wide approach to data-informed decision making and student success outcomes.

“Achieving the Dream’s ICAT helps provide an opportunity to look at seven very specific elements of how an institution functions and because of that framework, it allows you to look at how much capacity do we have in each of those? And then prompts you to be able to respond to the areas where you don’t have as much capacity to build it.”

- Matthew Campbell, Vice President of Learning and Student Success

ATD’s Institutional Capacity Framework is a comprehensive approach to addressing the emerging needs of colleges to improve success results for all students, especially low-income students and students of color. ATD’s framework helps Pierce College to enhance the student experience by using data to galvanize their improvement efforts.


Achieving the Dream’s ICAT assessment helped Pierce College strengthen its commitment to using data by encouraging an institution-wide dialogue about student success metrics. Through this conversation, Pierce College recognized that an analysis of institution-level data alone would not be sufficient to make significant strides in student success. As a result, the college began to provide faculty with direct access to their own data and the data of their colleagues as well as the ability to sort student achievement data by course, section, modality, timeframe, subsequent success, and a variety of demographic measures. To support faculty understanding and the use of this data, the college also provides frequent training workshops and opportunities to learn more about using data to inform action.

“I think a lot of colleges might say they’re interested in equity and they’re interested in closing achievement gaps … but they’re interested. I don’t see them actually putting the data out there and trying to measure it. ATD’s ICAT provides another way of assessing where we’re strong, where we know we’re doing well, and where some of the gaps are and what we need to do to address them.”

- Marty Cavalluzzi, Campus President

Since instituting the ICAT, Pierce College has already started to record student success developments through an overall improvement in student performance and the achievement gap.



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